Mumbai: Mumbai put the first step towards clinching their record 40th Ranji Trophy title as they bowled Saurashtra out for just 148 on day one of the final at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday.
It was a case of an abject surrender by Saurashtra’s batsmen, who couldn’t have the measure of the pitch, which had green patches on it that offered plenty of assistance to the hosts’ seamers. None of them, except Aarpit Vasavada (55), could put up a brave front as the visitors were folded inside 76 overs.
Dhawal Kulkarni was the pick of the Mumbai bowlers, picking up 4 for 24 after Ajit Agarkar won the toss and opted to field. Left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar and allrounder Abhishek Nayar too chipped in with two wickets each, while Agarkar got one as well.
Saurashtra medium pacers, Jaydev Unadkat and Siddharth Trivedi, too got help from the wicket, with Unadkat making a huge appeal for an lbw against Wasim Jaffer (11*) which was turned down by umpire CK Nandan as the ball clearly hit over the batsman’s knee roll. Mumbai openers, Jaffer and Kaustubh Pawar (4*), survived the tough period as the home team reached 19 for no loss at stumps.
Earlier, an incisive seam bowling by Mumbai bowlers put Saurashtra on the back foot right from the beginning. Both Agarkar and Kulkarni took the maximum out of the wicket. While Agarkar maintained the pressure, Kulkarni made the batsmen play, beating them outside their offstump on a regular basis.
Kulkarni provided Mumbai the breakthrough in his first over - second over the day - when he had Sagar Jogiyani (1) caught by Wasim Jaffer in the slips. Jogiyani poked at a ball that pitched on length and moved away. He was replaced by Rahul Dave (3), who looked a bit more positive in his approach before he fended off a Kulkarni bouncer awkwardly, giving Ankit Chavan an easy catch in the gully.
Shitanshu Kotak (14) too could not repeat his marathon knock that he played in the same venue six years ago when he thwarted the Mumbai attack to compile 168 in nearly 800 minutes. He departed when he pushed at a ball from Dabholkar that went straight after pitching, giving Jaffer his second catch in the slip. Vasavada, meanwhile, struck a few boundaries, pulling Kulkarni and driving Shardul Thakur through covers. But the wickets kept tumbling at the other end.
Sheldon Jackson (5), who made 107 in the semi-final against Punjab, started off with a streaky four over the slips off Kulkarni. But he was caught in two minds, not knowing whether to go back or forward he just poked at a short-of-a-length delivery from Kulkarni, edging it to Aditya Tare behind the wickets.
Jaydev Shah (0), the Saurashtra skipper who came in to bat at No. 4 in the semis and struck a useful 87, joined Vasavada but before getting his eye in he lofted Dabholkar uppishly to short midwicket where Hiken Shah took a good low catch. Saurashtra went into lunch with 51 for 5.
The hosts started off the afternoon session with Thakur and Dabholkar. While the latter kept a tight line, the former was either too wide or too short. It gave Vasavada and Kamlesh Makwana (26) a chance to set. Both were edgy but dug deep, playing attacking strokes on every given opportunity.
Vasavada got to his fifty – his fourth in first-class cricket – when he cut Nayar for a single. But his 210 minutes stay at the wicket came to an end when he edged the same bowler to Hiken Shah at first slip. Makwana too didn’t last long as his cut shot was grabbed by Kaustubh Pawar at gully off Nayar to leave Saurashtra at 117 for 7 at tea.
Mumbai polished off the Saurashtra tail, with Agarkar cleaning up Saurya Sanandiya (4), Jaydev Unadat (22) getting run out in a bizarre manner when he forgot to slide his bat in while taking a quick single and Siddharth Trivedi (2) edging Kulkarni to Tare.
With the hosts trailing by only 129, it will take nothing less than a miracle from Saurashtra to claw their way back into the game from here on.